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Electronic communications laws

The EU's electronic communications policy improves competition, drives innovation, and boosts consumer rights within the European single market.

EU actions in the electronic communications field have led to greater consumer choice, falling phone bills and higher standards of service. The main laws and actions related to electronic communications are:  

The European Electronic Communications Code Directive's main provisions are: 

  • clear rules: the same rules will apply all over Europe;
  • higher quality of services: the Code will foster competition for investments, in particular in very high capacity networks such as 5G networks, meaning higher connection speeds and better coverage;
  • consumer protection: the Code will benefit and protect consumers, irrespective of whether end-users communicate through traditional means such as calls and SMS, or web-based services;
  • equality of treatment of all players in the telecom services sector: whether traditional or web-based, the Code will clarify the definition of electronic communication services.

Key Directives and Regulations

Implementation

The telecoms market is not always sufficient to generate growth, protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for new companies in the telecoms sector.

The European Commission regulates the market in order to counterbalance the significant market power of former monopolies, to ensure universal service and to protect consumers.

The Commission's aim is to contribute to the timely and consistent implementation of the telecoms rules by:

Infringements

The Commission has the power to launch infringement proceedings against any Member State that fails to comply with EU telecoms laws and regulations. If necessary, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. In the majority of infringement cases, Member States comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court.

Any person or organisation may send a complaint to the European Commission against a Member State they consider to have taken measures incompatible with EU law. The Commission first tries to solve the issue with a Member State bilaterally. If the problem is not solved, the Commission can decide to open infringement proceedings.

Infringement proceedings can be launched following Article 258 or Article 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

For non-conformity issues, the infringement proceedings consist of the following steps:

  1. A "Letter of Formal Notice" to the Member State concerned, which must generally be answered within two months.
  2. If the Commission is not satisfied with the response given by the Member State, the Commission can send a formal request to comply with EU Law (a "Reasoned Opinion"), calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures taken to comply with the rules within two months.
  3. If a Member State fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice following Article 258 TFEU. The Court of Justice will then issue a judgment.
  4. If, despite the Court's judgment, a Member State still fails to act in order to comply with the judgement, the Commission may open a further infringement case with only one written warning before referring the Member State back to Court under Article 260 TFEU.
  5. If the Commission refers a Member State to Court for a second time it may propose financial penalties on the Member State concerned based on the duration and severity of the infringement and the Member State’s ability to pay (both lump sum depending on the time elapsed since the original Court ruling and a daily penalty payment for each day after a second ruling until the infringement ends).

Under article 260(3) TFEU, when a Member State fails to inform the European Commission of the new legislation transposing a directive, financial penalties are proposed with the first referral to Court.

Judgments of the Court are binding on all EU Member States as well as on the EU institutions themselves.

The Secretariat General, which coordinates the Commission's work on the application of Community law, provides general details on infringement proceedings.

Latest

Contract summary for consumers of electronic communication services in the EU

The European Commission has today adopted an implementing regulation establishing a template for the contract summary that electronic communications services operators should provide to consumers in the EU. The providers of these services, such as telephony, messaging or internet, will need to give to the consumers a summary of the contract before the conclusion of a contract. The summary will include the main conditions of the contract, such as information on price, services and internet speed. The summary will be required as of 21 December 2020.

Commission launches public consultation on the review of the Significant Market Power Guidelines

The European Commission has just launched a public consultation to prepare the review of the Significant Market Power (SMP) Guidelines, dating from 2002. The goal is to update the guidelines in time for the implementation of the new European Electronic Communications Code. The update of the guidelines shall take into account changes in the telecoms markets and recent developments in regulatory and competition law.

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